Last week, New York's attorney general said he suspects there's little difference between broadband's fast lanes and the slower freight of ordinary Internet access.
In letters to the state's three major Internet providers, the attorney general has asked them to validate claims their customers are getting the access speeds promised, especially for premium services.
The agency said it's concerned that Time Warner, Verizon and Cablevision subscribers might not be getting the speeds advertised. In letters Friday, senior enforcement counsel Tim Wu wrote that the office has authority to subpoena documents and take legal action to stop deceptive business practices, requesting detailed information by Nov. 8.
Wu wrote that the office had two concerns.
The first is that the speeds in the so-called last mile — the wiring closest to subscribers — "may deviate far enough from the speeds advertised to render the advertising deceptive," he wrote.
The second is the quality of connections between the three providers and sites such as Yahoo or Netflix. There have been many consumer complaints, officials said.
There are several ways to protect yourself as a consumer.
One is not to sign lengthy contracts with Internet service providers. Many companies will try to offer one-time only rates if consumers sign a contract.
While every consumer wants the best price for Internet, a contract makes it challenging for consumers to hold Internet providers accountable for bad service. Shop Internet providers and ask for their best price that does not involve signing a contract. Often, these prices will be about what consumers are paying who have a contract.
If you decide to sign a contract, understand what you're signing and make sure that you have an out-clause in case the service does not meet your satisfaction.
Another very important step is to use a speed test on all devices you plan to connect to the Internet. Check to see how your Internet speed compares to what is promised. It is also important to understand the different terminology.
Ping: Is the speed it takes for your information to reach your internet provider's server. The longer this ping is, the less responsive your Internet service will be.
Mbps: Megabytes per second.
Download and upload speeds: Download speeds are often what Internet providers will sell consumers on. For instance, many basic Internet plans will promise consumers speeds of 12 Mbps. This can be verified using online speed tests. What does download speeds mean for customers? The more Mbps, the better your computer will handle stream video services, surfing the Internet and other basic functions of the Internet.
Upload speeds are also important, but service providers often do not use upload speeds as part of their pitch. Better upload speeds means being able to transfer photos and videos from your computer to the Internet at a faster rate.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.